Horses cause erosion on trails

Dear Editor:

Re: Is there no place that is sacred anymore? (Pioneer July 21st) Messrs. Wallin and F. Christensen have put forth the argument that alpine terrain is highly sensitive and cycling activities are more damaging to the environment than say, hiking or horseback riding.

On the contrary, there is a large body of research comparing trail user groups and their impact on the environment.

In 1994, Wilson and Seney found no statistically significant difference between measured bicycling and hiking effects. They did find that horses caused the most erosion of the trails, and they concluded, “Horses and hikers (hooves and feet) make more sediment available than wheels (motorcycles and off-road bicycles) on pre-wet trails, and that horses make more sediment available on dry plots as well.”

Weaver and Dale (1978), Quinn et al (1981), Soanne et al (1981) and Cole (1987), suggest that in many places, “Feet and hooves will trample more than bicycle tires. The instantaneous sheer forces exerted on a plant by a foot or hoof will have much more of a tearing effect than the rolling over and crushing force of a bicycle wheel.”

It would appear that mountain bikers are not the worst offenders with respect to trail degradation and erosion.

Re: Death by a thousand cuts (Pioneer July 28th). Mr. P. Christensen implies that a cyclist drives 20 hours for two hours of riding. This simply makes no sense.

Mr. Christensen cites locales where mountain bikers are “poaching trails.” Of the six areas listed, four of those are recognized by our provincial government as commercial tenures, or as designated recreation sites and designated trails. Specifically, Nipika, Mt. Swansea, Toby Benches (Kloosifier), and Toby Canyon (Johnson Trail Network). Characterizing the riding of these world class trail networks as “poaching” is baseless, false, and misleading.

Mr. Christensen opines, “It is about selling experience, room nights, meals, bikes, and accessories.” Exactly. A balanced scorecard of environmental, social AND economic aspects must be considered to sustain our community.

In conclusion, advocating for, designating, and constructing well designed trails, no matter the user group, will encourage people to stay on the trail. Designated trails provide the opportunity to educate the trail user, in turn mitigating the impact to the natural environment.

Whether they are located above treeline, in the valleys, front country or backcountry, not everyone is going to be happy about the location of trails, or the activities that take place thereon. But if we listen to the hyperbole of the vocal minority in our community, that rely on unsupported hypotheses, responsible development of designated trails will not proceed. Rather, irresponsible, unplanned, poorly designed and located trails, will propagate, because the demand for trails exists, and the users are being “shut out”.

Andrew Cradduck


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